Will it be necessary to produce a passe sanitaire (vaccination passport) to be allowed to vote in France? With 221 days until the first round of the next presidential election, the mere rumour of such a sinister measure is provoking near hysteria.
‘Fake news’ shrieked the media aligned with president Emmanuel Macron (frankly, most of it) tonight. Perhaps. It’s true that the government’s vaccination passport law currently being rushed through the National Assembly does not specifically mandate proof of vaccination to vote.
But neither does it specifically exclude it. And with Macron’s draconian new law demanding that those without such passports be excluded from restaurants, trains, workplaces and art galleries, the rumour mill has shifted into high gear. It will even be illegal to enter a hospital without such a pass, except in emergencies.
More than 175 demonstrations against the passe sanitaire are scheduled this weekend, uniting both the left and right and reanimating the gilets jaunes movement that became largely quiescent during the Covid crisis.
These groups are disinclined to believe official denials. Particularly after an amendment specifically to exclude such a step was rejected by Macron’s parliamentary majority. Joachim Son-Forget, a deputy representing overseas French voters, and a physician, tweeted that his amendment was a big test of the government’s hypocrisy.
‘If the government doesn’t demonstrate clearly that it has no intention to use the vaccination passport to exclude the votes of its political opponents, the doubts will continue,’ he warned.
The political calculus of excluding non vaccinated voters is hardly clear. It’s certainly likely however that Macron’s voters are probably less vaccination sceptical than his opponents. Which could make vaccine passports a useful tool to suppress opposition voters.
Macron, in Tokyo on Friday at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, has yet to pronounce on this question. He will return to a France more divided and mistrustful of his presidency than ever.
It’s a little remarked feature of the president’s crackdown on the vaccine hesitant that the one group he will depend on to enforce his new law has been specifically excluded from complying with it. Firefighters, nurses and teachers, and soon, children over 12, are all to be subject to mandatory jabs. But not, curiously, the police.